Clint Dives Into Scoring For 'Mystic River'

Excerpted from the magazine for

Clint Eastwood regularly has a hand in composing or assembling his movie soundtracks. And he was recently recognized for his efforts by the Henry Mancini Institute.

But his highly praised new film, the intense crime drama "Mystic River," is the first to feature the one-time jazz-club pianist's own entire score -- save for a pair of jazz instrumentals by his jazz bassist son Kyle Eastwood and Michael Stevens used as source music in a bar scene. The soundtrack was released Oct. 21 by Warner Bros.

"I've written themes for pictures before," says Eastwood, singling out "Big Fran's Baby" from 1993's "A Perfect World" country music soundtrack, "Doe Eyes" from his Johnny Hartman-heavy 1995 romance "Bridges of Madison County" and especially "Claudia's Theme" from his 1992 masterpiece "Unforgiven" -- which he wrote on his way to the location.

"I've just fooled around and let Lennie Niehaus save my bacon and be the hero," he continues, referring to his longtime musical collaborator. "But on this one, I wrote it and then played it into a friend's computer, and he mocked up some synthesized instruments. After the film was done, Lennie arranged and conducted it for the Boston Symphony Orchestra."

Eastwood says he never originally intends to write music for his films. "It just comes to you along the way," he explains.

On determining what would work for the new film, Eastwood says, "I didn't want a jazzy thing because I didn't see it as that kind of movie, but went with the three guys who were haunted by their past and the problems they were having in the present, and built a sort of triad on the piano, and just worked it out from there."

The director/composer says he draws upon a lifetime's worth of film music influences "dating back to Franz Waxman, Max Steiner, Miklos Rozsa -- all those people you grow up with -- and then guys I worked with like Lennie and Jerry Fielding ["The Gauntlet"] and Lalo Schifrin ["Dirty Harry"], and then Hank Mancini, who was not only a great composer but a great songwriter."

The late Mancini was also a great friend of Eastwood's, making his receipt of the Henry Mancini Institute's fourth annual Hank Award for distinguished service to American Music especially meaningful for Eastwood.

Previous honoree Quincy Jones presented the award at the Institute's 2003 Mancini Musicale in August at UCLA's Royce Hall. The gala featured a performance by Diana Krall, who sang "Why Should I Care?" on the soundtrack for Eastwood's 1996 thriller, "True Crime."

More recently, Eastwood lensed the "Piano Blues" episode of Martin Scorsese's "The Blues" PBS series. Although understandably slanted more toward the jazz side of the blues, showcasing performances from the likes of Monk, Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Art Tatum, it also included Fats Domino and Chicago blues legend Otis Spann.

"I'd seen a lot of archival footage, so I knew what we were looking for," says Eastwood, who was given complete freedom in subject and content -- and produced new performances from pianists including Ray Charles, Dave Brubeck and Jay McShann.

"I figured the other [blues] bases were being covered," Eastwood says, "and these were all people who had something interesting to say about the blues."

Excerpted from the Nov. 15, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Premium Services section.

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